Written by Josh Spencer
For this week’s review, we move from the Mediterranean to East Asia at Dia Thai Cuisine. Dia, located at 114 East 7th Street, Suite #105, just east of Romeo’s and the square, opened for business two Fridays ago, so I was eager to try it out.
The first thing I noticed is that the restaurant is tiny. There’s not much space, and their capacity to seat guests seems to be somewhat limited, should they ever experience a rush of patrons. The decor is plain and the only thing that interrupts the monotony is a single painting on the back wall. The environment would have been improved by some background music, but this, unfortunately, was not present either.
We were originally seated and had our drink orders taken by a guy who seemed as if he would rather not be there. The most notable thing regarding the drink menu is that Dia does not serve alcoholic beverages, so forget happy hour. The list does, however, include such non-traditional items as Thai Ice tea and Thai Ice Coffee, though when I questioned the waiter as to what the Thai versions were, he really didn’t know. I ordered the Thai Ice Tea anyway and was rewarded for my leap of faith. The mixture is cloudy orange, and the taste was very refreshing and incredibly smooth going down. That, however, was the only positive regarding beverages, as the water tasted “a bit different,” and all sodas at Dia are from a can, not a tap, meaning that there are no free refills. Also, it took 10 minutes before our server checked on us to find that people had needed refills of water for some time.
For starters, we ordered the sampler tray which includes assorted satay (marinated chicken), coconut shrimp, dumpling, cheese rolls, egg rolls, and spring rolls, all of which are also offered separately on the appetizers menu.
At this point, for whatever reason, our waiter was replaced by a sweet little Thai lady. This is where the meal turned around because this woman really made the experience for us, with a great personality and an incredible knowledge of Thai food.
The cheese rolls, shrimp, egg rolls, and sauces were all delicious, but the dumplings were bland – a condition that was improved by the sauce. No one ordered soups or salad but to give you an idea of what’s on offer, for soups there are choices like beef noodle, spicy seafood and Tom Jerd (a chicken broth with minced chicken and cabbage). The salad menu includes selections like grilled shrimp, papaya, and dia (mixed greens with grilled chicken).
Regular meals are divided in the menu among entrees, curry, noodles, and fried rice. Fried rice wasn’t ordered during my visit, but curries of Panaeng and Massaman were. The Panaeng was “pretty freakin’ good,” and the Massamann curry also got the seal of approval with a good, sweet sauce and delectable pork. Under noodles, we ordered Pad Thai (Stir-fried rice noodles with egg) and Pad See Ewe (Stir-fried flat noodles with egg and broccoli). The Pad Thai was found to be a little disappointing. The tofu was overcooked and a request for the meal to be made spicy was not fulfilled. For Pad See Ewe, the chicken and noodles were “awesome”.
Among entrees, the Pad Ped Basil (Stir-fried choice of meat in Thai black sauce) passed with flying colors as the beef was of good quality and given a nice spicy flavor by the jalapeño peppers.
I personally went with the roasted duck with pineapple curry and thought it was reasonably spicy with a sweet, flavorful sauce that mixed well with the duck. Other entrees available include Pla Sam Rod (grilled sea bass), Tiger Cry (charbroiled top sirloin) and Bangkok Garden (stir-fried vegetables in oyster sauce) among others. Throughout all this, our waitress was attentive and helpful as she even showed us the way that Thai people eat their food.
At this time, all expectations were surpassed as we encountered desserts. We ordered sweet rice with fresh mango, sweet rice with coconut custard, and fried banana with honey and ice cream. The sweet rice with coconut custard was not great as it lacked in taste, but the fried banana was amazing. None of those, though, compare to the sweet rice with fresh mango. This dessert exhibits some of the best flavor I have had for some time, and I do not think I am being overly complimentary when I say that this dish alone made the trip worthwhile.
So despite its atmosphere and initial shortcomings, Dia was a positive dining experience that I would definitely recommend to others who don’t mind paying for refills for their Cokes.
Thanks to Winston Pool, Stephanie Seaman, Shannon Ploeger, Brendin James, and Micah Salinas for their assistance.